It’s tempting and not altogether far-fetched to apply an engine metaphor to the mighty Downchild, one of the planet’s foremost, most fêted, longest-running blues outfits with quite possibly the best back story ever told.
Roaring through bracing, high-octane performances since 1969, the band founded and continuously steered by harmonica and guitar ace Donnie “Mr. Downchild” Walsh is as vibrant today as when Dan Aykroyd and the late John Belushi were inspired by Downchild for their brilliant Blues Brothers venture back in the 1970s. The pair elevated Downchild’s “Shotgun Blues” and Walsh’s “(I Got Everything I Need) Almost” to smash status on their 1978 Briefcase Full of Blues record.
Actually, the 2017 iteration of Downchild — with each member boasting a minimum of 20 years of service — might be the most electrifying yet. For proof, simply check out the sextet’s towering, lid-lifting, juke-joint–jumping 18th studio album, Something I've Done, a bona fide group effort and a sonic highlight in a 50-year career spilling over with them.
Internal combustion certainly describes scorchers like the swaggering, harp-goosed “Mississippi Woman, Mississauga Man,” the thundering piano-pummelled title track, and opener “Albany, Albany” which contrasts a singalong chorus with sharp melody forwarded by Pat Carey’s marvellously skronking sax.
Indeed, if Downchild didn’t exist, the blues world would have to invent them. Who else could so clearly serve as contemporary torchbearers for riveting original music firmly rooted in tradition while acting as a thriving spiritual link to past greats like Sonny Boy Williamson II, James Cotton, and B.B. King?
But don’t take our word for it. Downchild’s epic reputation has been reaffirmed time and again.